East Asia

Chinese opera mask

Q: This time I sent you a mask of the Beijing theater. I suppose it may be original because on the back, under the nostrils, I saw a stain that could be caused by the breath. I hope I got it right this time. Monica, 1572

A: You are right. Peking and Beijing opera, are the most dominant form of Chinese opera which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. These are performed all over the country. The number of these masks being made is huge.

Papier mache opera mask are probably the favorite method performers use as makeup. Since such opera masks are used in representing various human emotions, the frequent on-stage change of facial expressions is much more difficult with traditional makeup.

With masks, audience is able to read character of a role at one glance. That is possible because of strict symbolism of colors that are used for painting the masks. For example, red symbolizes positive values of the character such as loyalty, heroism and courage. A-

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